Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Jean J. Schensul, November 19, 2015

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:11 - Childhood and education

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Partial Transcript: This is Thursday November 19th, 2015.

Segment Synopsis: Schensul talks about growing up within a small Jewish community that was not friendly with another neighboring Jewish community. She says she did not like it because she felt restricted to just her own community and she wanted explore the other Jewish community. She says this early understanding of community helped with her dream of becoming an anthropologist. Schensul had an 8th grade history teacher inspire her to become a historian early on. Archaeology was the only thing offered at the college she went to so she started taking classes. She realized it was not for her after working on some unrewarding excavation sites. Schensul went on to study under Bert Palto and marry a professor, Schensul.

Keywords: Anthropology; Archaeology; Cultures; Jewish communities

Subjects: Anthropologists; Childhood; Communities; Education; Jewish children; Jews--Identity.

00:07:39 - Influences

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Partial Transcript: In your early years, what did you find most compelling about anthropology?

Segment Synopsis: Schensul talks about her neighborhood again, this time as a crossroads of sorts. She says that many displaced soldiers after the war would end up in the Jewish communities because of how welcoming they were. She says that they had a large conference where they taught these people from around the world how to live in communities like hers. Next, Schensul talks about professors that influenced her. However, she says she was much too rebellious to be a good mentee. She constantly was challenging her mentors, which led her to be self-taught in many ways. Schensul says being one of the few women at the college with almost no women faculty was tough and she experienced lots of sexism regularly. However, Schensul says that Bert Palto helped opened the doors to the world of methods research and he was very influential. He taught her how to apply her knowledge in a real world setting through field operations.

Keywords: Colleges; Research methods; Sexism; Universities

Subjects: Anthropology students; Communities

00:12:54 - Applied anthropology

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Partial Transcript: Um, as your--(coughs)--your education as an anthropologist evolved, uh, when did the role of applied practicing anthropology become of great interest to you?

Segment Synopsis: Schensul says that a lot of what motivated her to be an anthropologist was actually the time period and environment of the 1960s. A book was released around then called "Reinventing Anthropology" which influenced her in graduate school. She later began to work with African Americans, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans that wanted education reform in their communities.

Keywords: 1960s; Applied anthropology; Education

Subjects: Anthropologists; Anthropology students; Anthropology--Research; Communities

00:15:50 - Field schools / First position

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Partial Transcript: In your educational experience, did you ever have an internship or something that maybe called today an internship?

Segment Synopsis: Schensul talks about working at field schools, which she believes are very important. Schensul says that field school shows how different types of anthropology can be used in conjunction in the real world. Schensul also explains how her first job helped her get lots of field experience and a broader understanding of applied anthropology.

Keywords: Field experience; Field schools

Subjects: Anthropologists; Anthropology--Fieldwork; Applied anthropology

00:23:52 - Field sites

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Partial Transcript: You, you also have extremely eclectic field sites that you've done work in.

Segment Synopsis: Schensul talks about some of the field sites she has worked in such as: Mexico, India, China, Sri Lanka and more. She says one of the reasons was because she married an anthropologist who was also a traveler and went with her on many trips. Schensul also knows Spanish, which made her an important asset on trips. Schensul describes how each field study led to more contacts in more locations all around the world.

Keywords: China; Mexico; Sri Lanka; Traveling; Travels

Subjects: Anthropologists; Anthropology research and developments; Anthropology--Fieldwork

00:27:47 - Career landmarks / Schensul's influence

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Partial Transcript: Looking holistically, what do you see that you might call the landmarks of your career to date?

Segment Synopsis: Schensul talks about some of her career highlights so far. She talks about the two different research organizations that she helped create. Schensul also references two books that she wrote and says she sees on people's shelves. Schensul had just recently received a letter from a college where the students voted and selected her to be honored.

Keywords: Authors; Books; Research organizations

Subjects: Anthropologist's writings; Anthropologists; Anthropology; Anthropology publishing

00:32:17 - Advice to anthropology students

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Partial Transcript: How about advice you might give to junior anthropologists as they're starting out?

Segment Synopsis: Schensul talks about being a mentor to students and how that is one of her great passions. She says high school students should become involved with other cultures and communities to get a better perspective on life. Anthropology is just the academic continuance of that community and cultural research. Schensul says undergraduates should focus on service learning projects so they can learn what it is like doing community projects with organizations. These locations can help when writing a senior thesis and can be added to a CV. Schensul suggests before immediately getting a masters degree that people should travel or get a very interesting job that gives them real world experience. Schensul suggests that PHD students make sure to work in the field. She also suggests they go to job expos to try and find good possible positions.

Keywords: Communities; Community projects; Community research; Cultures; Field work

Subjects: Anthropologists; Anthropology students; Anthropology--Field work; Anthropology--Research; Applied anthropology

00:39:11 - Hispanic Health Council

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Partial Transcript: What led you to pull resources together and to get things together to establish the Hispanic Health Council to begin with?

Segment Synopsis: Schensul talks about working with a group that was involved with Puerto Rican health. She says that soon, with the help of some peers, the group got big enough to split into two groups. One of them was the Hispanic Health Council, which Schensul was elected to help run.

Keywords: Communities; Hispanic Health Council; Minorities; Public health

Subjects: Anthropology; Anthropology--Fieldwork; Applied anthropology

00:43:33 - Hopes for the future

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Partial Transcript: Do you have any thoughts about how you would like to see things go and how you anticipate things might go?

Segment Synopsis: Schensul says she likes to see people finally combining different types of skills and focuses into anthropology. She sees a future where the different disciplines of anthropology are merged. Art and science working together for the greater good of the community.

Keywords: Arts; Communities; Holistic; Multidisciplinary; Sciences

Subjects: Anthropologists; Anthropology; Anthropology--Philosophy